House Dems raise concerns about EPA employee allowed to be media consultant

House Democrats asked Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Monday to address "serious concer...

Posted: Mar. 6, 2018 12:53 PM
Updated: Mar. 6, 2018 12:54 PM

House Democrats asked Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Monday to address "serious concerns of impartiality" about an agency appointee allowed to work as an outside media consultant.

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According to the letter, the EPA approved a request by John Konkus, the EPA's deputy associate administrator for the Office of Public Affairs to provide "consultative media advice" to outside clients." The names of those clients, the letter says, are redacted from documents provided to the members by the EPA.

According to ethics documents obtained by Greenwire, the agency informed Konkus that he "could not earn more than $27,765 in outside income for 2017 under ethics law. In addition, he cannot participate in EPA duties that could affect his outside clients, and he cannot contact the government on their behalf."

EPA has not responded to a request for comment from CNN.

The members note that Konkus previously worked at Jamestown Associates, a Republican political consulting firm which provides "services such as campaign advertisement production, direct mail and media buying." Among the firm's premiere clients is Donald Trump for President, Inc., the letter says.

The letter, whose four signatories include Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., the ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Diana DeGette, the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, says that the members are concerned about the "politicization of the Agency's grant process and (Pruitt's) decision to place Mr. Konkus in charge of vetting hundreds of millions of dollars in grants EPA awards each year."

The members allege that Konkus has canceled nearly $2 million in grants to universities and nonprofit organizations.

All of these things, the letter says, raise "serious concerns of potential conflicts of interest."

The members want the EPA to provide a list of all political appointees who have approval to work for outside agencies, as well as the names of those organizations and what kind of work they're doing.

It also asks the agency to provide non-redacted copies of all of the memos of approval authorizing any outside activity, a notice of any subsequent approvals, including approvals reflecting a change in the type or scope of outside activity and a list of the names of all authorized clients.

The members also raise concerns about Patrick Davis, a senior adviser for public engagement to the regional administrator in the EPA's Denver, Co. office, who they say was approved by the agency's ethics official to work as the sales director for Telephone Town Hall Meeting, a company that makes robocalls on behalf of organizations and individuals of all types. Davis, the members say, currently works as a Republican political consultant at his firm, Patrick Davis Consulting, LLC.

Davis' roles with the EPA and the Telephone Town Hall Meeting "serve to create possible confusion among stakeholders and raises further concerns of potential conflicts of interest," the letter says.

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